The Terps took most of the first half to get in sync against Vermont but ended up asserting their dominance over the Catamounts and cruising to a 81-63 victory. This wasn't an undermanned Hampton squad but a Vermont team with decent talent and a full bench. It didn't make much difference as DJ Strawberry and Mike Jones helped to warm up Maryland's shooting and bury any hope that Vermont would get an upset. Once the team settled down and stopped taking bad shots Vermont had little answer for the Terps.
The defense was solid again. This Terrapin squad is already better at guarding the perimeter two games into the season than last year's Swiss cheese defense. Vermont only managed 33% from the floor and 2-16 from the 3 point line. Among the 22 turnovers Maryland got 12 off steals, including 6 from DJ Strawberry who has blossomed in his new role on this team.
This may be a special season for Strawberry, who has deferred to other less worthy upperclassmen the last few years. His slashing, up tempo style in transition, ability to finish around the basket and experience in running the offense last season has made him a special player. He is doing his best to prove those writers who left him off the preseason All-ACC teams are idiots. His stifling and opportunistic defense has returned along with the complete health of his repaired knee. He admitted his knee was only at 80% last season but it seems he is finally healthy and ready to dominate.
Mike Jones showed that if put in the right situation he can score in bunches. His decisions are better and with a three guard set Gary Williams is able to play him while hiding his defensive weaknesses.
Bambale "Boom" Osby is fast becoming my favorite player on this team. He is the ultimate lunch pale guy. He hustles up and down the floor and gladly does the dirty work on the inside that the other big men on the team shy away from. His outlet passes to start the break were fantastic and he showed a nice repertoire of inside moves with drop steps and a little hook. Another huge advantage is that Osby seems to be the best foul shooter in the post group as well. In my mind he has already passed Will Bowers in the post rotation and can push Gist and Ibekwe if they continue to struggle this season. If Gist and Ibekwe continue to be enamoured with the highlight move instead of the the post work that doesn't gain attention but helps your team win then Osby will look better and better to Williams.
Both Freshmen guards, Eric Hayes and Greivis Vasquez, showed some nice skills for the second straight game. Hayes isn't putting to rest the comparisons with Steve Blake by dishing out 8 assists. Vasquez added 9 points and a boundless amount of energy on defense.
Think the post game hand shake between Mike Lonergan and Gary Williams was a little icy? It is fairly obvious that Longergan used Maryland as a convenient stepping stone to his first opportunity. Not exactly a way to show gratitude to a coach that gave you a shot out of Division III basketball. Doesn't seem like he'll be on Gary's Christmas card list.
It is a little sad to see Will Bower's season fade away game by game. Perhaps he can get motivated to earn more floor time but the early returns are not encouraging.
All in all this team already seems to have improved on the weaknesses of last year's squad, namely defense and point guard play. This group is hungry and motivated by the fresh blood on the roster. Last season Gary Williams had a Frankenstein monster of mismatched parts and he had little production off his bench. This group is talented and deep with the ability to matchup with almost any kind of opponent. They can go small and run or play a stout frontcourt with 6'5" guards. The new found flexibility of this group gives Williams a myriad of options. You have to think Gary cracked just the slightest smile while watching Osby come off the bench and add 11 superlative minutes like he did tonight.
This young group will have a few hiccups along the way but will be great fun to watch this season. Enjoy Terp fans!